GWR experiments with steel sleepers

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Western 52

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Does anyone have information about the GWR's experiments with steel sleepers? I believe there were some trial track sections, such as that laid on the Carmarthen to Aberystwyth line on what is now the Gwili Railway. In this case chairs were integral with the sleepers. What were the locations for the trials and what was the outcome?
 
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Taunton

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The sidings under my old footbridge spotting point west of Taunton station had these; I believe they were put down in WW2. There were small square concrete blocks under the rails and steel tie bars between them.

Are these the sort you are thinking of, or different?
 

Western 52

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Yes I remember those sleepers which were mainly used on sidings I think? The ones I'm thinking about though were entirely steel as a single casting complete with chairs for bullhead rail. The ones that survived on the Gwili Railway were that type but maybe there were others elsewhere?
 

Lucan

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The ones I'm thinking about though were entirely steel as a single casting
Some steel sleepers must have been malleable steel, forged rather than cast. Lawrence of Arabia described sabotaging Turkish railway lines by placing a small amount of explosive in a space hollowed under a steel sleeper, which themselves seemed to be hollow underneath. He said that the sleeper ballooned up (my wording) pulling the rails together rather than breaking. Admittedly, Lawrence cannot always be relied upon for veracity.
 

bishdunster

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A fair bit remains on the WSR between Dunster and Minehead, referred to as "the tin road", hollow presumably pressed steel sleepers with 4 holes near each end through which it appears the molten metal for the chair castings was poured through, ISTR the dates cast into the chairs was 1939.
 

Western 52

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Presumably incompatible with track circuits.
These days I suppose modern insulating materials solve that issue, but probably an issue in the 1930s. Do steel sleepers get used these days on electrified lines? Plastic is used for insulated rail joints for track circuits of course but there must be some sort of limitation to the voltage they can handle?
 

Ashley Hill

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The track inside Whimple goods shed had steel sleepers. IIRC they had LSWR chairs. I remember thinking back to them when Railtrack (or thereabouts) made a big thing about using them.
 

edwin_m

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These days I suppose modern insulating materials solve that issue, but probably an issue in the 1930s. Do steel sleepers get used these days on electrified lines? Plastic is used for insulated rail joints for track circuits of course but there must be some sort of limitation to the voltage they can handle?
Track circuits work at very low voltages so there is no issue with them causing insulation breakdown. A steel sleeper with integral bullhead chairs would be conductive throughout, so would need an insulating key (wood probably OK) and some kind of pad to insulate other parts of the rail that contact the chair. I'm not sure what material would be suitable for the latter, and still witihstand the various stresses it would encounter, in the time before plastics were widely available.
 

Western 52

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I imagine modern steel sleepers use a rubber pad under the rail and plastic sleeves around bolts to give insulation? Of course the sleepers used for the GWR experiments were at locations which would hardly have had track circuits, so it would not have been a consideration.
 

ge-gn

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There were 3 different designs of steel sleeper on the Gwili Railway. One was as mentioned above, although I believe they are pressed still rather than cast. Another had a separate chairs bolted on to a steel sleeper as like wood or concrete. Unfortunately time has erased my memory of the third type. They were all in the space of a chain or two, and I remember being told they were GWR experiments.
 
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